Having whitewashed the University of Stellenbosch 3-0 three months ago to qualify as South Africa’s representatives for the eight-nation tournament, Tuks have duly topped their group at the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals with three emphatic victories and will now take on defending champions Rizvi Mumbai College in the semi-finals today at the Oval.
“I’m very happy with the focus of the side, we’ve set high standards and we’re going to fight all the way to the end. We’ve worked so hard, so we want to be at 100%. We’re playing the defending champions, so they must know they’re in for a fight,” Tuks coach Pierre de Bruyn told The Pretoria News yesterday.
While Rizvi Mumbai won the second edition of the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals last April in Sri Lanka, they only finished second in Group 1 this year, behind the University of New South Wales, and they are going to have to find a way of matching the tremendous form of the Tuks batsmen.
While comparisons across groups may be a little unfair, Tuks have posted totals of 205-4, 110-3 and 178-5, while Rizvi’s scores have been 123-1, 132-8 and 107-9.
“I haven’t had the chance to watch much of Rizvi, but the standard of their batting is a question, they’ve had a couple of collapses and the Oval pitch looks a bit juicy.
“We wanted to see contributions from all eight of our batsmen and we’ve managed to do that. Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram are the top scorers in the competition, but Johan Wessels has done nicely at four, Heinrich Klaasen has had a couple of good knocks and Sean Dickson has been finishing the innings well. I’m really confident in our batting unit,” De Bruyn said.
Where Tuks will need to make a plan is in terms of the bowling, where a couple of injuries could rob them of the services of two seamers.
Tian Koekemoer has an ankle injury, while Theunis de Bruyn strained a hamstring.
“Tian will definitely play and might even open the batting, but Johan Wessels might have to fill in for him with the ball. Theunis can play, but won’t be able to bowl. So we’re going to have to box clever with the seamers,” coach De Bruyn said.
The Tuks new-ball attack is bound to be a handful, however, particularly if conditions at the Oval today are the same as yesterday. Nobody has taken more wickets in the competition than Corbin Bosch (7), while Vincent Moore has conceded just 46 runs in 10 overs.
And the Tuks spinners have stated their intent to match their sub-continental rivals in no uncertain terms, with Ruben Claasen, David Mogotlane and Markram forming a potent combination.
Rizvi have a lot less pedigree than Tuks when it comes to performances in senior cricket: The University of Pretoria have five first-class cricketers with 125 caps between them across the three formats; Rizvi have one player – Kevin Almeida – who has played three T20s for Mumbai. Plus Markram and Bosch are ICC U19 World Cup winners.
But semi-final, knockout cricket often curdles the brains and stomachs of the supposed favourites and De Bruyn has stressed the importance of being at 100% to his team.
“It’s 50/50 from now on and if we struggle under pressure and make mistakes, then we won’t go through. We need to stay calm, absorb the pressure and eliminate basic mistakes.
“But we’ve been in this situation so many times in the last three years, we want those pressure buttons,” De Bruyn said.
Tuks have been in such control in all three of their matches in London thus far that it is clearly going to take something special from Rizvi to knock them off course, but then again, the Mumbai students are defending their title and will not be in the mood to fold.
The University of New South Wales play the Jamaica Inter-Collegiate Sports Association in the other semi-final today, with the two winners meeting in the grand final this evening [6.30pm SA time].